Composting and Mulching
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is the natural decomposition of organic material (from plants and animals) such as leaves, yard trimmings, and food waste (e.g., fruit and vegetable scraps). Microorganisms and insects break down this material into compost – a crumbly, dark-colored, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. Compost is a nutrient-rich product that can be used in your garden and flower beds and on your lawn.
How do I start composting at home?
EPD encourages the composting of acceptable organic materials as a means of diverting organics from landfills. Under the Georgia compost rules, backyard composting is exempt from state regulation. If you don't have the space to compost at home, there are businesses that offer pick-up services. Some local community gardens also might accept your kitchen scraps. If you are interested in backyard composting, there are many websites and documents that offer guidance, including:
- Georgia Backyard Composting – Georgia Recycling Coalition
- Compost at Home – Georgia EPD
- Composting at Home – U.S. EPA
I want to start a composting business in Georgia. Where should I begin?
The Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management offers many options for composting operations in Georgia. See Chapter 391.3.4-16 for information on the types of solid waste handling permits and exemptions for composting operations.
What is composting feedstock and how do I know if I need a solid waste permit?
Feedstock is defined as any organic material used in the production of compost or processed in an anaerobic digester. Feedstock is further broken down into specific categories, such as yard trimmings, agricultural residuals, and sludge, according to the Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management (Chapter 391-3-4.16(4)). Knowing how your feedstock is categorized is important to determine if you are exempt, need to obtain a Solid Waste Handling Permit (SWHP) or Permit-by-Rule (PBR). See:
Does our community garden need a permit to accept food scraps?
Yes. If your community garden wants to accept food scraps from off-site, you need a “permit-by-rule” (PBR) under the Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management, Chapter 391-3-4.16(5)(b). In general, a PBR is a less stringent form of permitting that is used for operations that have been deemed to present a lower risk of harm to human health and the environment. If you accept more than 500 tons of food scraps per calendar month, the operation will need a full solid waste handling permit. See:
Do I need a permit to operate a collection service for compostable food scraps?
Yes. If, either as part of your composting operation or as a stand-alone business, you are collecting food scraps and transporting them to a composting operation, you are required to have a collection PBR. An operation is considered collection if the collector is aggregating or combining materials from multiple individuals or picking up from multiple locations per day. This includes house-to-house pick-up, as well as roll-off/dumpster operations. See:
Where can I find a composting business or compost hauler?
Mulching is defined as the grinding, shredding, or chipping of woody materials consisting of stumps, trees, limbs, branches, bark, leaves, and other clean wood that has not undergone controlled aerobic decomposition to produce a stabilized organic product. EPD encourages mulching as a means to reduce woody materials destined for landfills. Throughout Georgia there are many uses for chipped, shredded, and ground wood, from fueling power plants to providing materials for the pulp and paper industry.
Does mulching fall under Georgia’s composting rules?
Yes. Mulching is a component of Rule 391-3-4.16.
Do mulching operations require a permit?
No. Mulching operations are not required to obtain a solid waste handling permit or receive approval from EPD. They are also not required to notify EPD before beginning operations. As long as mulching operations meet the design and operation standards outlined in Rule 391-3-4.16(5)(a), they will be considered in compliance. Please note, however, that mulching operations are subject to compliance inspections by EPD.
- Community Composting Done Right: A Guide to Best Management Practices – Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Yes! In My Backyard: A Home Composting Guide for Local Government - Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Composting in Georgia – Georgia Recycling Coalition
- Atlanta Community Compost Council – Food Well Alliance
- Georgia Recycled Organics Council – Georgia Recycling Coalition
- International Compost Awareness Week – U.S. Composting Council
- Environmental Education in Georgia – Georgia EPD
- Yes You CAN (Compost and Naturescape) – North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance
- Recovered Materials Advisory Notice (RMAN) V Summary – Georgia EPD
- Composting at Georgia’s Prisons – Community Environmental Management, Inc.
- Summary of State Composting Regulations in the U.S. – Georgia EPD
- General Compost Presentation – Georgia Department of Agriculture
- Map of Open Solid Waste Disposal Facilities with Landfill Gas Collection Systems in Georgia – Georgia EPD
- Georgia Organics – Alice Rolls, Georgia Organics
- Food Scraps Composting in the U.S. – BioCycle
- Organics and Climate Change – Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Biobased Packaging 101 – Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- Integration of Rotary Drum Reactor and Anaerobic Digestion Technologies for Treatment of Municipal Solid Waste – California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery